What Your Gym Can Do for You Now

New programs tailored to people over 50 could get you back in shape

by Matthew Solan • Next Avenue
woman workout image
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

If you stopped going to a gym a while back, you may have had a good reason: Maybe the "boot camps" and other classes didn't meet your needs. Maybe the early-morning timing of spin or yoga sessions no longer fit your schedule. Maybe the blaring house music, with a backbeat of young bodybuilders clanging metal weights, took all the fun out of visiting. Or maybe rising monthly fees convinced you that membership wasn't worth the trouble.

But you do need to stay in shape, for a host of reasons including new evidence that people who get fit in middle age can better avoid chronic conditions in later years.

It could be time to give the gym another chance.

Fitness centers are recognizing that fiftysomethings can be valuable (and profitable) customers and are refashioning their programs to appeal to your needs. People 55 and over are now the fastest-growing membership segment for the health club industry. In 2010, 10.4 million Americans 55 or over had gym memberships, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). In 2011, that number rose 5.1 percent, to about 11 million. The group also reports that more than 30 percent of its member clubs offer programs tailored to older clients.

(MORE: What Is Correct Exercise?)

"Boomers have more options and more choices than ever before," says Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), which offers an online directory of health clubs that cater to 50-plus fitness seekers.
To appeal to fiftysomething clients, many gyms offer yoga, spinning or Pilates classes tweaked to lower the intensity. By offering chairs and other props, classes are being made more accessible to people with physical limitations. There are even Zumba classes which move at a slower pace, so everyone can get in on the Colombian-inspired fitness craze that blends hip-hop, salsa, merengue, mambo, martial arts, and belly dancing.

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Photo courtesy of Kurhan /Shutterstock.com

First Published Fri, 2012-10-12 15:56

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